Chances are, if you’ve frequented live shows around town for the last decade, you’ve seen Caleb Stanislaw perform. The list of projects he’s lent his skillful musicianship to is long and varied. He currently plays guitar in the ’60s-esque psych-pop outfit The Hendersons and handles bass for the indie art freak of Chillamundo. He’s formerly backed soulful country crooner Vincent Neil Emerson and many others. He has certainly fronted his own projects in the past, but none have seemed to gain much footing. This Saturday, he hopes to change that with the release of the debut album from his new band, Deep Sleepers.
It’s perhaps what he’s learned from his time working with other artists that he feels has raised his own songwriting to the next level.
“I’ve had [my own] bands going back to the early 2000s,” he said. “I’ve always written kind of Texas, Southern rock songs. If anything, working with those guys honed my ear for melody, made me think about parts of songs more. Having to learn their singing styles has made me want to explore more with what I can do with my own vocals. I write to the song more.”
Stanislaw formed Deep Sleepers about two years ago. It started out of a desire to work with drummer Ashlyn Shanafelt, whom he knew and with whom he had built a musical connection from their stints playing with artists like Kate Hearne and Tripp Mathis & The Traitors. Stanislaw recruited bassist (and TCU writing professor) Curt Rode. Their shared love of the English band XTC had sparked a friendship while Stanislaw attended TCU. Shanafelt left Fort Worth to become a full-time touring musician and was replaced by The Hendersons’ Zach Mayo.
Stanislaw said he knew he didn’t want to do the “rockin’ three-piece thing,” so he wanted another guitar player. He could think of no better option than his bandmate in Chillamundo, Denver Williams, to share in Deep Sleepers’ kinetic guitar stylings.
“We just really get along together,” Stanislaw said of Williams. “We’re like kindred spirits, I guess. We’ve become really great friends and just really enjoy playing music together. I love his lead playing. He’s just gotten better and better over the years, and he’s pushed me in a lot of ways.”
Though the band is new-ish, there’s an unmistakably seasoned quality to the group’s sound. The guitar interplay of Stanislaw and Williams is the sort that comes only from decades spent on stages. Stanislaw sings with an uncanny confidence, his voice full and resonant and melodies infectious and memorable. Musically, Deep Sleepers is the result of danceable Southern-fried roots rock raised on the quirky indie guitar heroes of ’90s alternative acts like Dinosaur Jr. and Matthew Sweet.
Their self-titled debut album was recorded last spring at Cloudland Recording Studios with engineer Robby Rux (The Fibs, Antirad) manning the board. Peter Weirenga (Siberian Traps) mixed, and Jordan Richardson (Son of Stan, White Denim) mastered.
The release’s six songs offer a wide variety of moods and feels. The two songs the band plans to release as singles bookend the album and couldn’t be more aesthetically different. Opening track “Snake and Hound” is a bluesy banger filled with grit and swagger. Closer “Legacy” walks right to the line of a late-’60s protest song without slipping over the edge into trite preachiness. “Snake and Hound” will be released concurrently with the album, and a video for the observational “Legacy” will follow a few weeks later.
A screed on how humanity is destroying the planet, “Legacy” is the album’s most vivid track. Lyrically, Stanislaw plays on words and twists phrases to build dramatic imagery of mountains of garbage swallowing the world, piling high enough to even envelop the moon. The song, more than any other, showcases Stanislaw’s gift for poetic language.
An impressively cerebral guy, Stanislaw, in fact, writes poetry. (It was actually by attending a poetry class taught by Rode at TCU that the two met.) He’s currently in the process of combing through his works to compile a volume of his poetry that he hopes to one day publish.
“I’m an emotional beast,” he said. “Grappling with that, thinking about it, trying to figure it out – that’s pretty much why I write anything.”
Deep Sleepers celebrate the release of their debut on Saturday at Lola’s Saloon with Earthchild Imperius, Picnic Lightning, and Goodness Gracias.
Deep Sleepers album release
8pm Sat w/Earthchild Imperius, Picnic Lightning, and Goodness Gracias at Lola’s Saloon, 2736 W 6th St, FW. $10. 817-877-0666.